Enough about the emails, please

For those of you who live in a tougher bubble than I do (unbelievable, but possible, just as I might describe one of the potential outcomes of this election), there has been a new development in the issue of Hillary Clinton’s (you guessed it) emails. Some new emails were discovered in the unrelated case of Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Clinton’s aide Huma Abedin, leading FBI Director James Comey to announce that the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private server is being reviewed.

As one might imagine, this made Trump’s day. He waxed eloquent about Clinton’s corruption and about how glad he is the FBI finally has the courage to do the right thing, namely, remove his opposition. It’s very, well, Trumpish of him to praise the “system” when it does something he likes, after saying just a few weeks ago that if elected he would hire a special prosecutor, rejecting the FBI’s recommendation.

The only problem with this heroic revelation is that it is just another meaningless shadow cast on the campaign that Clinton should have won in her sleep (yes, she is very good at taking naps). The FBI has been looking into her emails for months, and has found no evidence that she committed a crime. It is very unlikely that these new emails (and at the time of this writing it seems possible that most of them are duplicates of those previously examined) are going to change that. Comey himself said he does not know “whether or not this material may be significant.” So why summon public attention when you still know so little? I wouldn’t go so far as to accuse him of trying to meddle in a presidential campaign, but there is definitely reason to feel that his actions were inappropriate. Justice Department officials disapproved when he gave them advance notice of his intentions, stating that it was against department policy to release such information 11 days before the election. However, he wasn’t asking for permission. Whether or not he had noble intentions at heart  doesn’t change the fact that his decision could be very damaging to the outcome of this election, and unfairly meddles with the balance of things. Basically, the announcement gives a very wrong impression on a case that is largely, if not completely, settled. This is nowhere near the level of the Watergate scandal, but when Trump says it is, it’s hard to tell people otherwise, thanks to Comey’s statement. He opened the door to speculation, and nothing else. Clinton of course sees this, and demanded that the FBI release all of the information as soon as possible.

It seems ironic that Clinton has spent more time apologizing about her emails than Trump has had to about his many eyebrow-raising comments. You might recall, as I do, that in the second debate, about as much time was dedicated to Clinton’s emails as to Trump’s recently surfaced tape, in which he basically claimed his privileged status gave him license to commit sexual assault. I don’t think that’s the only time something of the sort had happened. It seems that we feel inclined to view both candidates as terrible, and we make up for Clinton’s relative dearth of failings by bringing them up over and over. Surely, it couldn’t be any kind of bias. Why would anyone be biased against Clinton?

Certainly, the email scandal is not trivial. It was a big mistake on her part to use a private server. But it was not illegal at the time to do so, and she did not intentionally expose classified materials. She has committed no crime as far as anyone can tell, and the FBI announcement, although carefully worded, had the effect of being very misleading. In all likelihood, nothing will change in its final recommendation. Therefore, we must keep in mind that there are bigger things at stake in this election, like what the candidates actually stand for, than all these emails.

I think I can imagine what a certain someone might say, if he were in her position: “Let’s be honest, we’re living in the real world. This is nothing more than a distraction from the important issues we are facing today.”

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